Pierre Courcelles - In the end, what is sculpture, what is the profession of
Jean Amado - One could say that a sculptor is someone who takes a material and makes of it something tangible, concrete and which moreover enters the domain of art. But that's the definition you'd find in the dictionaries and it's not enough. In fact, I don't know what a sculptor is, and as I don't like categories, I have the impression that I am not a sculptor and that the work I do is like a secretion. I don't try to make an object that would correspond to this or that data, but what I do is rather like a current that leads to a work - and I say a work because there is no other word. I have never asked myself the problems of sculpture, neither the problems of substance, nor the problems of form. What worries me more, what worries me in the work, is not being able to reach the result that I had assigned to myself. Is this what being a sculptor is all about?
Pierre Courcelles - Let us put the question thus: what differentiates a sculptor / the sculpture from a painter / the painting?
Jean Amado - It's the DIY, it's the tools, it's the tool. It is also the vision in volume, it is very important. It may not please the painters, but I would almost go so far as to say that the vision in two dimensions is a vision of decoration, that it is a little "a trick", that it is a way, I will not say "hypocritical", but perhaps a little insufficient. When I say decor, it is well what I mean, like superimposed plans and that behind these plans, there was nothing. Sculpture is not a set, because there is this necessity to turn around, to have the object constituted according to all its dimensions. This is perhaps the difference between painting and sculpture. That's it and then there is this notion of tool which is a means of exchange. When I meet another sculptor, we don't discuss the metaphysics of sculpture. We discuss the tool that we have found or that we are going to make, such and such a percussion drill, such and such a thing... that allows us to extend the hand and to carry out the work more easily - but it is not only that, it is also the pleasure of tools and of using them, of each time finding the technical solution. There is an overhang, you have to hold it, how? We are in a technical event that is interesting, that is essential. And this technical event has the advantage that it allows us to pass on, so to speak, what has been achieved. I mean that what has been achieved can be passed on to others through these technical events. Some time ago an old mason came to where I work and he watched me work. After half an hour he didn't say a word, he didn't look at what was being done, he wasn't interested in that, after half an hour he said: "Fucking work". And that means something else than "you've found the top of your art" or something like that.
Pierre Courcelles - It is true that you use a material that you are the only one to use and that supposes technical knowledge that you have built up over a long period of time...
Jean Amado - It is a long story. I developed this material when I was confronted with monumental works, whereas until then I had been using glazed clay. But clay is not a reliable material, in large dimensions, it gets warped, it cracks, etc... And one day I thought to myself that if you can't find such a mechanical part in the shops, to make it you must first make the tool. That's what I did by developing dosages of refractory cements and basalt sands to which iron oxide was added, it was the tool that allowed me to make the sculptures I wanted to create. But this tool, which is also a material and has its own laws, is specific and you can't do just anything with it. At that moment one is carried away by the material itself which becomes directive, the forms change after a while and the forms changing, the spirit is no longer the same - and it is also that the working methods are no longer the same. There is then a kind of dialectic between the material that must be forced and the need to live amicably with it.
Pierre Courcelles - All this manual engineer/worker side, how does it register the aesthetic fact?
Jean Amado - We are closer to the craft than the painters, closer to the craft than to the artistic event, but the problem consists all the same, by passing by the sensitivity, to reach an expression which, if all goes well, can be found in others: from the phantasm to the myth, to say quickly. When I make my preparatory drawings, I don't think only about the material of course.
Pierre Courcelles - Isn't sculpture potentially more popular than painting, because of the materials it uses, the knowledge it requires and finally because three dimensions are the replica of reality? And at the same time, sculpture seems to be the poor relation of the French artistic life...
Jean Amado - It has always been and at the same time one cannot say, for example, that France is not a land of sculptors. What is true is that we don't show enough of them in the cities. When you think of the number of monuments that there were in the 19th century! But it is true that there was a very low period of sculpture. Was it the market that wanted this? It's hard to say. It is certain that since the abstract arts, there have been things that I consider scandalous. As a contemporary art lover said to me, a marble cube topped with a salad leaf, I don't agree. One cannot believe in what is called the avant-garde from the moment it is cut off not only from a tradition but from a culture. The novelty is necessarily supported on a culture where there is tradition. That means that it is necessary to hold in the duration with the cultural fund, with the deep sensibility that we possess.
Interview with Jean Amado, 24-30 May 1985, by Pierre Courcelles in Révolution
On the occasion of the retrospective of his work at the Arts Décoratifs du Louvre, Paris.